The new Speaker and the Poles: Another bad night for the Tories

Its been on the cards for a bit, but the Tories, and David Cameron, are going to lead a new right-wing fringe group known as the European Conservatives and Reformists, the Guardian reports.

The Tories have taken themselves out of the centre-right EPP on a anti-federalist ticket, while Cameron has told other conservatives not to listen to Ken Clarke – known for his Europhilia –  who told BBC1’s The Politics Show that: “If the Irish referendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled policy is quite clear that the treaty will not be reopened.”

As the article in the Telegraph explains “Mr Clarke’s comments confirms that there is a serious shadow cabinet split on Europe”.

But this Tory split will not be the major focus for the next couple of days, since Conservative candidate John Bercow has tonight been voted new Speaker of the House of Commons, beating his nearest opponent Sir George Young by 322 to 271 votes.

Tories have been hard-pushed not to express their disgust at the winner. Already rumours are circulating that “Tories have been muttering about running a candidate against him at the general election, or trying to vote him out of office at the next election.”

Further in the above Guardian election run-down by Andrew Sparrow, he notes that “My colleague Michael White, who was in the chamber, says it was striking how little applause Bercow had from the Tory benches.”

And Michael Crick for the BBC, re-told this story;

A Labour MP was standing in the House of Commons gents and found himself standing next to David Cameron.

“For the first time in my life,” admitted the Labour MP, “I voted for a Conservative today”.

David Cameron inquired which of the Speaker candidates he meant.

“John Bercow,” replied the MP.

“He doesn’t count,” said Mr Cameron.

Is this the anti-Tory vote, as Sparrow asks?

The New Statesman attests to the Bercow vote as being, against all odds, a vote for the “most progressive candidate …. [s]tate-educated, and someone who sends his own children to state schools, he is no longer regarded as “one of us” by his party colleagues”.

But in an Guardian editorial, also on the left, and also against all odds, seemed to back Young, saying “His background will put many off and he shared his party’s opposition to freedom of information when Labour brought it in. Against that he has a dry resilience that could make him a tougher and more radical Speaker than his grandee status suggests.”

As for me, I was with Bob Piper and the anybody but Young vote (I do believe he was being sarcastic).

I suppose part of me didn’t want to see London oust another member of the working class in a political role for an Etonian that has a history of saying twatish things (when Housing Minister Young once joked that ‘the homeless are the sort of people you step over when you come out of the opera’.)

But I suppose at the end of the day the right person won. His Monday Club history well behind him, his willingness to reform the commons, and especially, his ability to get co-Tories all worked up.

So while Cameron mourns the Tories defeat (too far?) to a moderate, William Hague makes his position clear on the new European friends of his party;

“Hague dismissed “out-of-date and ill-informed” criticisms that Poland’s Law and Justice party was homophobic. “The Law and Justice party is a party committed to be against discrimination, for equality under the law,” he told the BBC.”

The same party that, in the run-up to 2005 elections, “accused gay and lesbian couples “of being a cultural and even biological threat to the Polish nation, lowering the birth-rate, and imperiling (sic) what ultra-conservatives lovingly call “natural law marriage and family.”

It seems that in an odd reversal, the Tories are reinvigorating a cross-European Monday club.

Balls is right (I admit now), Labour in-fighting gives Tories political highground

Alistair Darling, one half of the duo who quashed city analysts’ predictions on the longevity of financial recession, has clashed with Ed Balls over spending in the health and education departments.

Fair?

Those independent economists (bless them) referenced in the Telegraph article today have said that whoever wins next election will have to squeeze public spending in order to pay back the 700bn borrowing prgramme.

But on CiF and during an interview with Radio 4’s World at One Balls spelt out his reasons for wanting to go ahead with spending, along with why fighting within the Labour ranks is hurting the party, and giving the Tories a free ticket to political highground.

But Balls in the interview was clearly more cautious than some have now made out – like Liam Byrne for example, who said;

“We are going to decide how the growth in public spending is divided up much closer to the time. Looking into a crystal ball and understanding what the economy looks like in the year of the Olympics, I just don’t think is possible right now.”

Balls boldly stated that the moves on spending, to outdo Tory plans on 10% spending cuts;

“will depend upon what happens to the economy and to unemployment and debt interest. But I think that with tough choices we can see real rises in the schools budget and the NHS budget in future years.”

These careful claims are justified, but why have they not been backed by the Chancellor’s department?

Does Darling not believe his own part in the claim – now with Paul Krugman agreeing that Labour are the right party to fix the economy, and Jose Manuel Barroso limiting his focus on America, which by his predictions has not seen the worst of the recession yet – that the UK has the best chance of a quick economic recovery in europe?

Or is it something a little deeper; does it have anything to do with the fact that, as shadow schools secretary Michael Gove questioned, Balls is the man Gordon Brown wanted to make chancellor, [and] Alistair Darling [is] the man he was too weak to move?”

Certainly with TUC’s predictions recently that job losses will continue, now in the public sector – previously resisting the pressure by economic downturn – public spending should be bracketed as important as debt relief – since that debt has been largely public sector relief, its time to focus on how to avoid public sector collapse and more economic misery for working families.

And on a more strategic level, cuts in the public sector is where the Tories are at their most vulnerable; George Osborne and Kenneth Clarke have both said that cuts are inevitable, and Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, has said that to commit to Balls’ needs would mean cutting other departments’ budgets by 10 per cent (earning his pseudonym Mr. 10% by Liam Byrne).

The party must stay focused, cut out the deadweight and the weak, work out how to marry financial repair and public spending to curb job losses and economic misery for working families, and show the Tories that cuts will not cut it with the country’s economy.

The Right Wing in Europe

Far-right politician and murder inventor Richard Barnbrook was invited to join the launch of England’s bid to host the football World Cup in his role as a member of the London Assembly, the Times reports.

But two further parts of the story, found on the Evening Standard website, here, made for troublesome reading. First is the unconfirmed report by a BNP spokesperson that Barnbrook also has an invitation to a garden party at Buckingham Palace (links in this circle had already been uncovered, back in 2006, by Guardian journalist Ian Cobain when he discovered that Peter Bradbury, a leading proponent of complementary medicine who has links to Prince Charles, was a member of the BNP). The second uncomfortable truth, announced by the spokesperson, was that the public should get used to the BNP getting more public invitations.

Will we have to get used to that? Why has it only been relative affluence and economic stability that have before managed to neutralise the far-right. Like Charlie Brooker referred to in his recent article, on the subject of the expenses and the terrible party political broadcast by the BNP, “by referring to “professional politicians”, Griffin is presumably suggesting we should elect amateurs instead.” And, too, for the public, in times of crisis, like now, is the correct protest voice at the polling booth the one that condemns the establishment so much, they are willing to send the country back 1,000 years?

Will it be that the BNP get the same level of political favour as Le Pen’s National Front? If so, it is looking unlikely that the two will be natural allies, not since David Cameron has dropped the Tories from EPP (European People’s Party) memebership. This move will see the Tories sit nicely with other “non-attached” MEP’s, the xenophobes, the neo-nazi’s, the protectionists.

Pro-Europe Kenneth Clarke said over the weekend, it emerged in the Guardian, that the Tories will not be aligned with “neo-fascists or cranks or anything of this kind”. They may not be hugging one another, but they will certainly share the same bed. That bed inhabited by the infamous Polish Law and Justice Party (I’m sure you know all about them, but if you don’t, and to save me repeating, see Nick Cohen’s Observer article, and a blog entry written by Andy from Mind Robber). This won’t prove to be a wise move with the European community before the general elections, but June the 4th will show that it unfortunately won’t undermine the Tories. The UK is set to be represented by our own “non-attached”, detached.

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